McCann FitzGerald is one of Ireland’s premier law firms, with offices in Dublin, London, New York, and Brussels. The award-winning firm, which traces its history back to the 1820s, is owned by the partners and comprises 75 partners and over 380 lawyers and professional staff. The firm has always had a significant focus on international legal work, and its client base includes corporations from the EU, USA, Canada, Japan, China, India, Singapore, the Middle East, and Australia.
Managing Partner Barry Devereux, Chief Information Officer (CIO) Noel Carroll, and Head of Knowledge Peter Osborne explain how HighQ is helping McCann FitzGerald shape its digital services ecosystem so it can deliver better services to clients.
Partners and senior managers at McCann FitzGerald are acutely aware that the environment in which lawyers operate is dynamic and ever-changing. These changes place significant demands on all lawyers, both in-house and in private practice, to evaluate constantly how they deliver their services and figure out how to respond to the demand for increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Innovation has been the key to ensuring that McCann FitzGerald responds to these changes. Technology is transforming every business, and the legal services sector is no exception. The choice is to drive onwards and to progress or risk becoming irrelevant – that is why, according to Devereux, “We have put innovation at the heart of our strategy.” He added, “Investments such as those made in HighQ and other platforms are tangible proof of our commitment to utilize the newest technologies as a means of improving services and delivering increased value to clients.”
The challenge: Modernizing fragmented and complex systems
The firm’s first challenge was to identify what its clients really want and how that impacts the delivery of legal services in today’s environment.
Following comprehensive research conducted by the firm into the views, needs and behaviors of clients, intermediaries, and its own people, the firm adopted strategic principles that were designed to inform the investment priorities of the firm as they related to clients and markets. Having these as a set of guiding principles meant that the leadership team could focus on understanding and delivering the solutions that would work best for their clients and their business.
“One of the challenges we had was finding a platform that enabled us to engage with clients in a secure, cost-effective, and agile manner,” explained Carroll.
Prior to HighQ, McCann FitzGerald used complex solutions that were siloed and difficult to maintain The firm had two broad requirements: 1) the simple file transfer of large numbers of sensitive files and 2) having a secure data room to manage transactions.
“In the former, we were using a complex file transmission mechanism to transmit those types of files when needed,” explains Carroll. “On the project management side of things, we were using various external data rooms depending on client requirements and preferences, so the whole landscape was somewhat fragmented.”
“What we were looking for was a secure platform that was easy to implement, easy to manage, easy to use and with a clean, user-friendly interface,” said Carroll.
McCann FitzGerald also produces a large amount of legal knowledge for both internal consumption and for its clients. Another challenge the firm faced was finding a platform to help it digitize content and deliver this knowledge to the right people in a timely manner.
“We needed a platform that would allow us to move from a largely paper-based delivery system for legal knowledge to a digital form to better serve our lawyers and clients,” explains Osborne.
The solution: Secure digital work hub
McCann FitzGerald became aware of HighQ through its network of contacts and decided to evaluate the platform for its transaction and legal project management requirements. The firm spent some time testing the features and functionality against its requirements, and HighQ checked all the boxes.
“HighQ is very cognizant of the legal industry and the nature and extent of the challenges law firms face. The competing products were sector-agnostic and generic in nature, so the fact that HighQ has such a good understanding of legal sector requirements was very attractive to us,” said Carroll.
“HighQ offered us all the functionality we required on one platform, and most importantly, the platform comes with high levels of security so there is a comfort in using it.”
When evaluating HighQ, McCann FitzGerald also looked for the platform to help it digitize and deliver content.
The firm leveraged HighQ publishing functionality to create their Knowledge Hub, which provides access to up-to-date and relevant legal and regulatory developments, allowing clients and McCann FitzGerald personnel to stay current with the latest changes in these areas, as they occur.
“We wanted to meet clients’ needs but we also wanted to help in-house teams who have been championing the digitization of services for some time now to deliver on those initiatives, and HighQ has allowed us to do this,” said Osborne.
Targeted primarily at lawyers and compliance personnel, the content is divided under a number of headings of interest: Irish legislation (primary and secondary); selected judgments of the Irish, English and EU courts; and other material of interest (selected by their Knowledge Lawyers).
They then use Knowledge Hub to share information internally to ensure lawyers are kept up to date. The content is added as an item type in the Knowledge Hub and then, according to cataloging and system preferences by users, the content is disseminated via email and made available to registered users of Knowledge Hub.
The result: Improved client services, efficient project management and tailored digital content
McCann FitzGerald has received a lot of positive feedback since implementing HighQ.
“We launched HighQ over a year ago and we have had a lot of positive feedback,” said Carroll. “It is largely expected by clients that we have this type of functionality as a standard offering at this point, and HighQ allows us to manage projects more efficiently and keeps us competitive,” he said.
“I think where we will gain future competitive advantage is when we integrate it with AI tools and begin to publish apps through that platform, which will allow us to differentiate ourselves from the competition. The fact that HighQ can easily integrate with other AI vendors and has some AI in its future road map is a huge plus for us.”
On the HighQ publishing side, the platform was a key element of McCann FitzGerald’s migration from a largely manual delivery system for internal knowledge to a digital form, and HighQ has made that step very successfully in the course of the project.
The firm went through an initial pilot phase. As Osborne explains, “We conducted a trial with the legal departments, compliance departments, and regulatory departments of a number of clients and all were highly complimentary.”
“We can see that they are regular users of the services, and as it is rolled out to each new client, we frequently receive positive feedback from those clients,” he said.
McCann FitzGerald has recently redeveloped and relaunched its website, which has a large amount of legal knowledge on it. Analysts are tracking usage across the digital delivery channels between the website and the HighQ-driven Knowledge Hub, and so far, the results are promising.
“As we advance the rollout and adoption by clients, we start to get insights into what clients are reading and the legal information in which they are interested,” explains Osborne. “Once we have critical mass, it will be really interesting for us to know what is of most interest to our clients so we can refine the products that we are disseminating, rather than what we think they are interested in.”
“HighQ enables us to create more tailored content and allows us to really refine and enhance what we produce,” he said.
The firm has been rolling out Knowledge Hub externally to clients on a phased basis, and it has proved so popular that clients have been approaching the firm and asking to get on board with the product. “That is probably one of the greatest compliments you can get, when people come asking us to get on board with the product before their phase was scheduled to go live,” says Osborne.
The conclusion: Reaching digital services milestones with HighQ
McCann FitzGerald is focused on building out a client digital services ecosystem over the next 12 months. There are a lot of factors to be considered in the journey and the story does not start or end with HighQ, although the firm sees HighQ as a very important part of its digital ecosystem.
“As part of our digital strategy and initiatives, HighQ has played an important role in helping us to improve client services, drive efficiencies within our organization, and improve our IT operations,” concludes Carroll.